Grace and Assurance through the Testimony of the Blood, the Water, and the Holy Spirit

Dear BLCF Friends,

Effective October 17, 2021, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church is now opened by reservation only for Sunday worship under the limitations and guidelines set by Public Health and the Board of BLCF. Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the  BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to safely reopen more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: dove-holy-spirit

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Grace and Assurance through the Testimony of the Blood,  the Water, and the Holy Spirit’

© October 24, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on March 16 2014

BLCF: Bulletin March 16, 2014

BLCF: dove-olive

 

Announcements and Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 (Christian Baptism – Matthew 2 and 28, Acts2, Romans 6); Prayer

Opening Worship Specials: Cochren and Co. Church (Take me Back)  https://youtu.be/Z8AQQKwjNYY

Mandy Harvey  It Is Well https://youtu.be/BHTgqVIVZGk

Let us pray…

Welcome back to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Today we celebrate a long awaited opportunity to gather together and celebrate in word, in music, and in prayer our second live service in this place in 19 months! Though we are not the first followers of God to have to wait upon the Lord, you may recall that the Hebrews had to wait generations for God to send a deliver, the prophet Moses, to bring them out of bondage in Egypt and more generations they wandered in the desert to be led to the Promised Land. Then more generations for God to send His Son, Jesus the Messiah, again they waited in the upper room praying, before the Holy Spirit raised the Saviour from the grave, only to return for a short time on the earth before His Ascension to be with the Father in Heaven. And just when who think they have waited enough, they waited some more for the Son to send His Holy Spirit to the believers in the Upper Room and later to all who confess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour,

That is a whole lot of waiting for a result that was prayed for, in some cases for hundreds of years and scores of generations. So when you look at how long the saints in the Bible trusted and waited on the Lord, waiting for over a year and a half for the COVID-19 Pandemic to subside may seem, by comparison, almost trivial. But, from my perspective, what we all have had endured since March 16 of last year, some 19 months ago, has been a challenge to Christian believers, who are admonished both in the Scriptures and by fellow believers to gather together to worship God, celebrate His sacrifice through the observance of Communion, to show our love and support to one-another by a handshake, an embrace, or a Holy kiss of affection. But the Pandemic has caused believers to put social gatherings as a body of believers on hold. For the protection of those we love and ourselves we have had to isolate ourselves at home, don masks, wash our hands, keep a social distance apart, avoid indoor gatherings.

Even with a vaccination, we continue with precautions to protect those who we love and care for, which for Christian believers means everyone.  We prepared for today’s service by sanitizing the pulpit and pews, erecting plexiglass  barriers, screening all worshippers, not distribute Bulletins, Bibles or Hymnals, suspending choruses and songs during the service, setting up social distance between worshipers, cancelling coffee hour after the service, and providing communion in pre-packaged sealed cup that contains both the bread and juice. These rules and restrictions which apply whether we are vaccinated or not, and I believe all who are here today are vaccinated, sure beats sitting at home and perhaps watching a stream or broadcast of a service form a remote location or previously recorded at some church! There is something about hearing Scriptures, prayers, and praise in person that restores our faith, renews our spirit, and heals the soul, And, sadly, there are some who believe that the church will never reopen, having fallen victim to the Pandemic. To those who believe that God’s Church is no more having fallen victim to enemy of the COVID-19 virus, I say look around you here at BLCF and see that your fears are unfounded. Perhaps it is the faith of some that has fallen victim to another enemy who wants you separated from you brothers and sisters in the Lord! Today’s lesson is entitled, Grace and Assurance through the Testimony of the Blood,  the Water, and the Holy Spirit.

You may notice that we are smaller in number today that our usual small size. In time, this too should improve. During the Pandemic some of our members cannot attend because they have committed to visiting loved ones in nursing homes, while others have been called away by work, health issues, and other reasons. Some have felt safe being at home for so long, that going out to church or elsewhere is a scary proposition, even though Public Health assures us that it is safe if the recommended precautions are taken. So let us begin with today’s lesson:

Today, we will examine the significance of the dove in the scriptures. Initially, the Old Testament describes the dove being used as an object of sacrifice, both to atone for sin and to honour God. We also have the account of Noah sending a dove, to determine whether it was safe to leave the ark, after the Great Flood.

In the New Testament, we have a dove indicating the presence of God’s Holy Spirit.  And we have the Spirit, together with water and blood, acting to form a “Trinity of God’s Assurance” given in reward for our faith.

Let us begin by looking at some Scripture verses that include the dove, used as a sacrifice to God:                                    

Leviticus 12:6-8 (ESV): Purification After Childbirth

BLCF: offerings

“And when the days of her purifying are completed, whether for a son or for a daughter, she shall bring to the priest at the entrance of the tent of meeting a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or a turtledove for a sin offering, and he shall offer it before the Lord and make atonement for her. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood. This is the law for her who bears a child, either male or female. And if she cannot afford a lamb, then she shall take two turtledoves or two pigeons,[a] one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. And the priest shall make atonement for her, and she shall be clean.”                                                                                                                       

   Footnotes: a. Leviticus 12:8 Septuagint two young pigeons

Luke 2:21-24 (ESV)

BLCF: Presentation of the Child Jesus

21 And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

Jesus Presented at the Temple

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.”

 

John 2:13-20 (ESV):  Jesus Cleanses the Temple

BLCF: jesus-scourages-money-changers

13 The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15 And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16 And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17 His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18 So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple,[a] and will you raise it up in three days?”                                                             

  Footnotes: a. John 2:20 Or This temple was built forty-six years ago

BLCF: Christ Spirit

 

We continue to find additional references of the dove in the Bible, namely in Leviticus 12:6-8 and Luke 2:21-24:

In the Leviticus 12, we read a portion of the law that God gave to Moses instructing that after a prescribed period following childbirth, a woman was to bring an offering of animals, usually a lamb and dove, to the priest. The priest would sacrifice the lamb, as an offering to God, and the dove as an offering for sin. Remember, all men and women inherited sin as part of their birthright from Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

If the woman was unable to afford a lamb, then she would give a second dove for the burnt offering.

This brings us to today’s second Scripture, from Luke 2, gives an account of how Joseph and Mary went to the temple to bring offerings to be sacrificed in accordance to the Mosaic Laws. We note that Mary and Joseph had very modest means, as they did not offer a lamb for the burnt offering, but a second dove, instead.

Our third Scripture, from John 2:13-20, describes how Jesus chased the money changers from the temple in Jerusalem. These events occurred after the wedding in Cana, where the Lord performed his first miracle of turning water into wine.

So why was the dove selected as an animal for sacrifice? Let us look at our Wikibits for some reasons why the dove was selected:

Wikibits on Doves:

BLCF: flying_dove

Doves mate for life, are incredibly loyal to each other and work together to build their nest and raise their young. Because they tend to nest in areas that humans can watch, people picked up quickly on the idea that doves were dedicated, honorable and peaceful. While hawks and other birds of prey would violently attack their neighbors, the dove was a bird of peace, eating seeds, easily trained to eat out of the hand or to become domesticated. Beginning with the Egyptians, the dove was as symbol of quiet innocence. The Chinese felt the dove was a symbol of peace and long life. To early Greeks and Romans, doves represented love and devotion, and care for a family. The dove was the sacred animal of Aphrodite and Venus, the goddesses of love and friendship. The dove also symbolized the peaceful soul for many cultures.

Peace symbol

BLCF: dove olive branch

Doves, usually meaning domesticated Rock Pigeons, are a traditional Christian symbol of love and peace, see Peace dove and is of white colour.

 

 

Noah’s Ark

BLCF: Genesis-Chapter-8-A-Dove-Is-Sent-Forth-from-the-Ark

According to the biblical story (Genesis 8:11), a dove was released by Noah after the flood in order to find land; it came back carrying an olive leaf in its beak, telling Noah that, somewhere, there was land. Christians used Noah’s dove as a peace symbol.

The Holy Spirit

BLCF: holy_spirit_clip_art

In Christian Iconography, a dove also symbolizes the Holy Spirit, in reference to Matthew 3:16 and Luke 3:22 where the Holy Spirit is compared to a dove at the Baptism of Jesus. The early Christians in Rome incorporated into their funerary art the image of a dove carrying an olive branch, often accompanied by the word “Peace”. It seems that they derived this image from the simile in the Gospels, combining it with the symbol of the olive branch, which had been used to represent peace by the Greeks and Romans. The dove and olive branch also appeared in Christian images of Noah’s ark. The fourth century Vulgate translated the Hebrew alay zayit (leaf of olive) in Genesis 8:11 as ramum olivae (branch of olive). By the fifth century, Augustine of Hippo wrote in On Christian Doctrine that, “perpetual peace is indicated by the olive branch (oleae ramusculo) which the dove brought with it when it returned to the ark.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doves_as_symbols

Following the crucifixion of Jesus, it became unnecessary to sacrifice the dove or any other animal, as we see in Hebrews 10:8-25:

Hebrews 10:8-25 (ESV)

blcf: Jesus_lamb

When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. 10 And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ[a] had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.       

               

The Full Assurance of Faith

BLCF: Dove

19 Therefore, brothers,[b] since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Footnotes: a. Hebrews 10:12 Greek this one b. Hebrews 10:19 Or brothers and sisters

As I mentioned earlier, the Old Testament describes the dove being used by Noah to see whether the waters of the Great Flood had subsided in Genesis 8:6-12:

Genesis 8:6-12 (ESV): The Flood Subsides

BLCF: dove_ark_olive_branch

At the end of forty days Noah opened the window of the ark that he had made and sent forth a raven. It went to and fro until the waters were dried up from the earth. Then he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters had subsided from the face of the ground. But the dove found no place to set her foot, and she returned to him to the ark, for the waters were still on the face of the whole earth. So he put out his hand and took her and brought her into the ark with him. 10 He waited another seven days, and again he sent forth the dove out of the ark. 11 And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf. So Noah knew that the waters had subsided from the earth. 12 Then he waited another seven days and sent forth the dove, and she did not return to him anymore.                                                              .   

We see that the dove brought an indication by way of a leaf from an olive tree, that God’s judgment for sin was completed and when the dove did not return, that it was safe to leave the ark.

God had performed a reset of life in the world, retuning all except the living creatures and people in the ark back to the third day of Creation, just after He had parted the waters from the land and before He made the plants and animals.

We find that it was until after the second of two trips, did the dove return with any indication of life, the olive leaf. The dove must have hovered over the waters in the first trip finding them lifeless as the Spirit had in Genesis 1:1-2:     

Genesis 1:1-2 (ESV): The Creation of the World

BLCF: Genesis1_2

1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.    

The use of the dove, to describe characteristics of the Holy Spirit is more overt in the account of Jesus’s baptism in the River Jordan, in Luke 3:21-22:

Luke 3:21-22 (ESV)

BLCF: CHRIST_SPIRIT

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son;[a] with you I am well pleased.”[b]                                                   

 Footnotes: a. Luke 3:22 Or my Son, my (or theBeloved b. Luke 3:22 Some manuscripts beloved Son; today I have begotten you                                                                                                     .              

Our next verse, taken from 1 John 5:1-8, describes how like Jesus, and because of Jesus, we can by faith in Christ overcome the world. That is to say through Jesus, we overcome sin and its judgment:                           

1 John 5:1-8 (ESV): Overcoming the World

BLCF: 3 testaments

5 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?                                                                                 .                     

Testimony Concerning the Son of God

blcf: baptism blood

This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three that testify: the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

3witnesses_blood_water_Holy_Spirit

 

This “Trinity of Faith” consisting of the testimony of water, blood and the Spirit, regarding the sacrifice that Jesus made to pay the price for everyone’s sins. We know that Jesus shed his blood as the final sacrifice to atone for our sins. But what is meant by the water? Being born of the water is to be born of the Spirit, as the Lord explained to Nicodemus in John 3:3-5:            

John 3:3-5 (ESV)

BLCF: JESUS_NICODEMUS

Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again[a] he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.                                                    

   Footnotes: a. John 3:3 Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7

You may recall that the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus, after he was baptized in the water of the River Jordan. And Jesus surrendered the same Spirit when he died on the cross, where he shed his blood on our behalf.

Unless you believe that Jesus shed his blood to wash away the judgment for our sins and confess your sins, then being baptized in the water is meaningless and affords no assurance of eternal life in the kingdom of God. You must believe that you have been baptized by the blood of Jesus, for water baptism to mean anything to us or to God!

And though Jesus was resurrected from death by the Holy Spirit, we would not be able to receive God’s Holy Spirit, unless we were first cleansed by the blood of Christ. Remember Christ had to ascend to be with his Father in heaven in order to send us the comforter of God’s Holy Spirit, which occurred at the Day of Pentecost. This is what gives us the assurance and our faith!

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because[a] the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,[b] for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Footnotes: 1. Romans 8:27 Or that 2. Romans 8:28 Some manuscripts God works all things together for good, or God works in all things for the good

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn 

Lauren Daigle – You Say (Lyrics) https://youtu.be/HqpNGYbcy3U

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):  The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Welcome Back: Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed

Dear BLCF Friends,

Effective October 17, 2021, Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church is now opened by reservation only for Sunday worship under the limitations and guidelines set by Public Health and the Board of BLCF. Please be advised that both the BLCF Café Community Dinner and the  BLCF Wednesday Prayer Service will continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. We pray with the administration of sufficient COVID-19 vaccinations, and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities, that the danger of the Pandemic will have subsided sufficiently, to allow BLCF to safely reopen more of our worship and outreach activities without any concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community.

– Pastor Steve

what_are_you_dong_here_Elijah

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed’

© October 17, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages shared at BLCF on March 3, 2019, February 28, 2016, and on February 23, 2014

BLCF Bulletin March 3, 2019

 BLCF Bulletin February 28, 2016

BLCF Bulletin February 23, 2014

BLCF:WhispersOfGod

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer

Opening Worship Special: by Cochren and Co. Church (Take me Back)  https://youtu.be/Z8AQQKwjNYY

Prayer and TithingPrayers

Worship Song by the Newsboys:  Something Beautiful:  https://youtu.be/EGes0O84VbA

Message by Steve Mickelson:

‘Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed’    

BLCF:Whispers-of-God-Emerson             

Let us pray…

Welcome back to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service. Today we celebrate a long-awaited opportunity to gather together and celebrate in word, in music, and in prayer our first live service in this place in 19 months! Though we are not the first followers of God to have to wait upon the Lord, you may recall that the Hebrews had to wait for generations for God to send a deliver, the prophet Moses, to bring them out of bondage in Egypt and more generations they wandered in the desert to be led to the Promised Land. Then more generations for God to send His Son, Jesus the Messiah, again they waited in the upper room praying, before the Holy Spirit raised the Saviour from the grave, only to return for a short time on the earth before His Ascension to be with the Father in Heaven. And just when who think they have waited enough, they waited some more for the Son to send His Holy Spirit to the believers in the Upper Room and later to all who confess Jesus as their Lord and Saviour,

That is a whole lot of waiting for a result that was prayed for, in some cases for hundreds of years and scores of generations. So when you look at how long the saints in the Bible trusted and waited on the Lord, waiting for over a year and a half for the COVID-19 Pandemic to subside may seem, by comparison, almost trivial. But, from my perspective, what we all have had endured since March 16 of last year, some 19 months ago, has been a challenge to Christian believers, who are admonished both in the Scriptures and by fellow believers to gather together to worship God, celebrate His sacrifice through the observance of Communion, to show our love and support to one another by a handshake, an embrace, or a Holy kiss of affection. But the Pandemic has caused believers to put social gatherings as a body of believers on hold. For the protection of those we love and ourselves, we have had to isolate ourselves at home, don masks, wash our hands, keep a social distance apart, avoid indoor gatherings.

Even with vaccination, we continue with precautions to protect those who we love and care for, which for Christian believers means everyone.  We prepared for today’s service by sanitizing the pulpit and pews, erecting plexiglass barriers, screening all worshippers, not distributing Bulletins, Bibles, or Hymnals, suspending choruses and songs during the service, setting up the social distance between worshipers, canceling coffee hour after the service, and providing communion in a pre-packaged sealed cup that contains both the bread and juice. These rules and restrictions apply whether we are vaccinated or not, and I believe all who are here today are vaccinated, sure beats sitting at home and perhaps watching a stream or broadcast of a service from a remote location or previously recorded at some church! There is something about hearing Scriptures, prayers, and praise in person that restores our faith, renews our spirit and heals the soul, And, sadly, there are some who believe that the church will never reopen, having fallen victim to the Pandemic. To those who believe that God’s Church is no more having fallen victim to the enemy of the COVID-19 virus, I say look around you here at BLCF and see that your fears are unfounded. Perhaps it is your faith that has fallen victim to another enemy who wants you separated from your brothers and sisters in the Lord! But do not be discouraged by this fear that all is lost to an enemy, for such fear is not new to believers, as it has happened before, even to great leaders, including the prophet Elijah, who we see is the subject of today’s lesson, Listen When God Whispers and Have Your Faith Renewed.

You may notice that we are smaller in number today than our usual small size. In time, this too should improve. During the Pandemic some of our members cannot attend because they have committed to visiting loved ones in nursing homes, while others have been called away by work, health issues, and other reasons. Some have felt safe being at home for so long, that going out to church or elsewhere is a scary proposition, even though Public Health assures us that it is safe if the recommended precautions are taken. So let us begin with today’s lesson.

When I was 6 years of age, I found that it was good to have parents of strength around, on those occasions where fear overcame the joys of childhood innocence. I recall well when my younger sister Rhona suffered a traumatic spinal injury at the age of 3 years and was not expected to survive the night. Because of her dismal prognosis, dad was allowed to bring me to my sister’s hospital room, for what was possibly a final visit. Though dad did not mention how critical her condition was, seeing a Rhona connected to tubes and monitors was a frightening specter, which she must have sensed, as upon seeing me, she told me to “Go Away”.

BLCF:praying-hands

Our family prayed to God and Rhona pulled through, though, for the next 39 years of her life, she would face a lifetime of many or death surgeries and health challenges. At those times, we would often pray to God with the hope that he would give the family, especially Rhona, the courage to face these challenges.

This brings us to today’s lesson, from 1 Kings 19. Some of you may recall reading from 1 Kings 18, where the prophet Elijah, a devout servant of God, was concerned about the waning faith of the people of Israel towards the one true God where some had begun to worship the pagan god Baal.

BLCF:1kings18

This was where Elijah had proposed a challenge to the 450 priests of Baal, where both he and the priests would set up sacrificial altars to their respective god, asking him to light the altar. Elijah gave the priests of Baal a handicap by ordering a dozen urns of water to be poured on the altar he had built. The priests of Baal were unsuccessful, while Elijah prayed to God, acknowledging His authority and asking God to start the altar fires to help restore and renew the faith of His chosen people. God responded with a fire so fierce that it not only burned the wood and water but destroyed the very rocks upon which the altar sat. After the victory, Elijah had all of the priests of Baal put to death.

BLCF: Elijah_map

You would think, after this decided victory, Elijah would use the victory as an opportunity to promote God to those who had may still harbor any doubts about Who was the real God, and who wasn’t. Instead, Elijah fled upon learning that Jezebel had sought to give Elijah the same fate that was given to the priests of Baal. As we see in 1 Kings 19:

1 Kings 19 (ESV): Elijah Flees Jezebel

19 Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.

BLCF:Elijahunder_a_broom_tree

Elijah was so overcome with self-fear and loathing because he felt that by not convincing Jezebel of the one true God, that he had failed Him.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.

BLCF:elijah-and-the-angel

God had seen the faith of his servant Elijah, and in this case, denied Elijah’s request to be put to death. We see that God twice sent angels to attend to Elijah by giving him food and water. The first meal to restore Elijah’s strength, while the second to fortify Elijah for a forty-day journey to Mount Horeb, also known as Mount Sinai, the sacred place of God.  God had planned to not only converse with Elijah but to give His prophet a lesson in what matters most in restoring faith to those who have strayed from God. Let us continue in 1 Kings 19, at verse 9:

The Lord Speaks to Elijah

There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper.[a] 13 And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence

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We see that God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” In other words, why have you fled to the wilderness? Elijah confesses that following God’s demonstration where He had started the sacrificial fire on the altar made in His honor, the people of Israel had destroyed God’s altar and killed all His prophets, save for Elijah And because he had failed to convince the people to keep their covenant with God, Elijah had failed God. To Elijah, it seems that the glass is not just half empty, but totally so.

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God’s answer to Elijah, is quite interesting. The Lord instructs Elijah to go out of the cave and to stand on the mount before the Lord. Perhaps, Elijah expected God to cast him off the mount, as punishment for his perceived failure. It is also interesting to note, that God does not speak to Elijah in a voice that is great and thunderous as one might imagine. Thanks to the likes of Cecil B. Deville, we have God speaking to Moses in a mighty, booming voice and coming from a pillar of fire. There is no reason to believe that God spoke any differently to Moses than the way He conversed with Elijah, in a quiet whisper, like a Father to a beloved child.

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We see that as the Lord passes by, three great natural events occur: first strong wind, then an earthquake, and finally a fire. In each of these events, God was not present. Then Elijah hears God speaking in a low whisper, which prompts Elijah to cover his face, as he recognized God’s presence. We see that, though extreme natural events such as earth-shattering winds, earthquakes, and fire or even four blood moons and eclipses of the sun may occur after God passes, they do not indicate the presence of God. Only when we hear God speak, even though in a whisper, can we know for certain that God is present. Otherwise, we may mistakenly believe any and all such extreme events are a sign from God. God is quite clear and explicit that He communicates to us by his word, not through natural events or disasters. God was not in the wind.

The destruction of the altars set by the priests of Baal, by wind, earthquake, and fire are just as meaningless signs if the Devine presence unless God whispers. And what did God whisper? Continuing at 1 Kings 19, verse 13:

And behold, there came a voice to him and said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 15 And the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus. And when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael to be king over Syria. 16 And Jehu the son of Nimshi you shall anoint to be king over Israel, and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah you shall anoint to be prophet in your place. 17 And the one who escapes from the sword of Hazael shall Jehu put to death, and the one who escapes from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha put to death. 18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

First, Elijah gives the same refrain as an answer that we read beginning back in verse 9. This time God instructs Elijah to do what is likely what he should have done after the altar was lit instead of fleeing into the wilderness, which was: to anoint Hazael as king of Syria, anoint Jehu the son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and to anoint Elisha, the son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah in place of himself.  In other words, God tells Elijah to appoint new rulers and names Elisha to be His new prophet. God not only names a successor but informs Elijah that seven thousand people of Israel have not broken their covenant to God. So the glass is not as empty as Elijah had thought.

BLCF:1-Kings-19-19-Elijah-casting-his-mantle-on-Elisha

Elijah then departs to do as the Lord commanded, 1Kings 19, verse 19:

The Call of Elisha

19 So he departed from there and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen in front of him, and he was with the twelfth. Elijah passed by him and cast his cloak upon him. 20 And he left the oxen and ran after Elijah and said, “Let me kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow you.” And he said to him, “Go back again, for what have I done to you?” 21 And he returned from following him and took the yoke of oxen and sacrificed them and boiled their flesh with the yokes of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then he arose and went after Elijah and assisted him.

Just as God had provided food to restore Elijah, before whispering to and restoring his prophet, Elisha celebrates his calling, first by honoring and showing affection to his parents; then by making a sacrifice of the twelve oxen, which he shares as a feast with the people; and finally, Elisha leaves to follow Elijah.

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God had not only restored Elijah’s confidence and faith, but He raised Elijah to a more prominent place than before. And God had anointed those who kept His covenant. When we are afraid, God is our refuge and shelter, as we read in Psalm 91:

Psalm 91 (ESV): My Refuge and My Fortress

91 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say[
a] to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.

Not shown in today’s bulletin are the last three verses from Psalm 91, which indicate that God not only provides refuge and protection to the faithful but abide by the faithful, giving honor and reward of salvation. Psalm 91, verse 14:

14 “Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
15 When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble;
I will rescue him and honor him.
16 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Footnotes: a. Psalm 91:2 Septuagint He will say

BLCF:hebrews-11

What is faith and how does God value it? Hebrews 11:

Hebrews 11 (ESV): By Faith

11 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

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By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. By faith Enoch was taken up so that he should not see death, and he was not found, because God had taken him. Now before he was taken he was commended as having pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. 10 For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God. 11 By faith Sarah herself received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore.

13 These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. 14 For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. 20 By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. 21 By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. 22 By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. 24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the firstborn might not touch them.

BLCF: Exodus Numbers

29 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. 30 By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days. 31 By faith Rahab the prostitute did not perish with those who were disobedient, because she had given a friendly welcome to the spies.

32 And what more shall I say? For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets— 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. 35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. 36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two,[a] they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

BLCF Church: sinner saved

39 And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 11:37 Some manuscripts add they were tempted

We see God has acknowledged and commended the faith of His prophets, though many suffered dearly, some even paying with their lives. In verse 38 we read:

They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated— 38 of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

I can think of one such prophet who was destitute, afflicted, mistreated; who wandered in the deserts and mountain wilderness, in dens and caves of the earth. Sound familiar?

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A few years back, the Christian singing group, The Newsboys, gave a great lyrical expression of how the voice of God’s Holy Spirit whispers to us, in their song Something Beautiful, which begins with the lyrics:

I wanna start it over
I wanna start again
I want a new beginning
One without an end
I feel it inside
Calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

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And God’s love is the underlying emotion expressed in His whisper:

I’ve heard it in the silence
Seen it on a face
I’ve felt it in a long hour
Like a sweet embrace
I know this is true
It’s calling out to me

It’s a voice that whispers my name

Song by the Newsboys:  Something Beautiful:  https://youtu.be/EGes0O84VbA

 )

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But God provided something better for us, than just His commendation. We received, through Christ Jesus, salvation, forgiveness, and a new covenant. Through Jesus, sacrifice, we are lifted up and restored to God, not in a cave or upon a remote mount, but everywhere we walk. For as believers in Christ, we walk with the gift of God’s eternal presence through his Holy Spirit:

BLCF:Deuteronomy_33-27

Deuteronomy 33:27a (ESV):

27 The eternal God is your dwelling place,[aand underneath are the everlasting arms.[b]

Footnotes: a. 1 Kings 19:12 Or a sound, a thin silence b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place   c. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old

Know His presence, when you hear His voice whisper your name through His Holy Spirit.

Remember, all believers can take heart and comfort expressed in Psalm 27, verse 1, which begins with the assurance us that:

27 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold[
a] of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?

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And Psalm 27, verse 14, closes by urging us to not lose our faith, but to:

14 Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!

Footnotes: a. Deuteronomy 33:27 Or a dwelling place b. Deuteronomy 33:27 Revocalization of verse 27 yields He subdues the ancient gods, and shatters the forces of old  

 Let us pray…

Communion:1 Corinthians 11:17-34 (ESV)

The Lord’s Supper

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part,[a] 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[b] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[c] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.[d] 31 But if we judged[e] ourselves truly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined[f] so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

33 So then, my brothers,[g] when you come together to eat, wait for[h] one another— 34 if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home—so that when you come together it will not be for judgment. About the other things I will give directions when I come.

Worship Special Lauren Daigle – Rescue https://youtu.be/iItpBpdjfZA

 Benediction – (Psalm 27:14):  Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!   

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GOD’s Invitation: To Walk In the Light of HIS Glory and Grace – Thanksgiving 2021

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: IT COSTS TO FOLLOW JESUS

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Thanksgiving Sunday:

GOD’s Invitation: To Walk In the Light of HIS Glory and Grace’

© October 10, 2021,  by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on February 8, 2015, October 8, 2017, and October 7, 2018

BLCF Bulletin February 8, 2015

BLCF Bulletin October 8, 2017 

BLCF Bulletin October 7, 2018

BLCF: encouragement truth freedom lies hostage

 

Responsive Reading #613 (from – Isaiah 55); Prayer

Opening Hymn #451: I Have Decided to Follow Jesus; Choruses                          

 Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings Handiwork I See 

Golgatha

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Sunday Praise and Worship Service.  Before we begin our lesson today, I would like to wish all of you a happy and joyous Thanksgiving Sunday, and briefly share the origins of North America’s first Thanksgiving Celebration, which was celebrated here in Canada:

We find a historical account of the origin of Thanksgiving in Canada on the site, thecanadianencyclopedia.ca:

Origins and History of Thanksgiving in Canada

Indigenous peoples in North America have a history of holding communal feasts in celebration of the fall harvest that predates the arrival of European settlers. The Smithsonian Institute has noted that some First Nations “sought to insure a good harvest with dances and rituals.” The European settlers brought with them a similar tradition of harvest celebrations (for which the symbol was the cornucopia or horn of plenty), which dates back to European peasant societies.

The first Thanksgiving by Europeans in North America was held by Sir Martin Frobisher and his crew in the Eastern Arctic in 1578. They ate a meal of salt beef, biscuits and mushy peas to celebrate and give thanks for their safe arrival in Newfoundland. They celebrated Communion and formally expressed their thanks through the ship’s Chaplain, Robert Wolfall, who, according to explorer Richard Collinson, “made unto them a godly sermon, exhorting them especially to be thankefull to God for theyr strange and miraculous deliverance in those so dangerous places [sic].”

 In 1606, in an attempt to prevent the kind of scurvy epidemic that had decimated the settlement at Île Ste. Croix in the winter of 1604–05, Samuel de Champlain founded a series of rotating feasts at Port Royal called the Ordre de Bon Temps (“Order of Good Cheer”). Local Mi’kmaq families were also invited. The first feast was held on 14 November 1606 to celebrate the return of Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt from an expedition. Having attended the festivities, Marc Lescarbot remarked that they consisted of “a feast, a discharge of musketry, and as much noise as could be made by some fifty men, joined by a few Indians, whose families served as spectators.”           

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/thanksgiving-day/

It should be pointed out that in Canada, Thanksgiving was legislated not just a holiday day, as we see in this description of Thanksgiving, from kidsworld.com, that Parliament correctly applied the designation of Thanksgiving as a day when Canadians are encouraged to give thanks to God:

Official Canadian Thanksgiving Holiday

For a few hundred years, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November, before it was declared a national holiday in 1879. It was then, that November 6th was set aside as the official Thanksgiving holiday. But then on January 31st, 1957, Canadian Parliament announced that on the second Monday in October, Thanksgiving would be “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” Thanksgiving was moved to the second Monday in October because, after the World Wars, Remembrance Day (November 11th) and Thanksgiving kept falling in the same week. This year Canadian Thanksgiving is October 9th!

http://www.kidzworld.com/article/2614-canadian-thanksgiving#ixzz2hXOhQaCi

Shopeasefoods.com  helps answer the question, “Did Canada invent Thanksgiving?” with the following:

Thanksgiving in Canada originated purely as a harvest festival. On Jan 31, 1957 Canadian parliament proclaimed a day of general thanksgiving to the almighty God for the bountiful harvest Canada has been blessed with and was to be observed on the 2nd Monday in October. English Explorer Martin Frobisher hosted the first Thanksgiving held in what is now Newfoundland in 1578 to mark their safe arrival to the new world.

The first American (US) Thanksgiving was celebrated 43 years later in 1621 at the site of Plymouth Plantation in Massachusetts. They thanked God and the Wampano for teaching them how to grow crops that enabled them to have a plentiful harvest in time for winter.

http://www.shopeasefoods.com/blog//did-canada-invent-thanksgiving

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Now back to today’s lesson, GOD’s Invitation: To Walk In the Light of HIS Glory and Grace, which is the title of our message.

To better understand what it is like to walk in the light of GOD’s glory and grace, it might be better to understand when we are not walking in the “light of the Lord”.

In our lives, we have a choice between following two paths: the path of the world or the path of the Lord.

The path we follow is sometimes not directed by our hearts or our minds; but by our eyes. For those of you who drive a vehicle, you are likely aware that where the eyes stray, there is the tendency to steer the vehicle in the same direction. That is why traffic officers try to clear the scene of an accident as quickly as possible, before the so called “rubber neckers” steer their vehicles off the road, after being distracted by the scene of an accident. Until a traffic accident is cleared, the officers will slow the speed of vehicles down to a speed which allows passing drivers enough reaction time to avoid becoming part of another accident scene. Still, some drivers will let their vehicle follow their eyes, and another accident ensues.

Our first Scripture passage, which is: Genesis 3:1-7, describes how Eve and Adam were tempted by the appearance of the forbidden fruit in the garden, seeing the fruit was good for food and a delight to the eyes.

Genesis 3:1-7 (ESV): The Fall

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3 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You[a] shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise,[b] she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

Footnotes: a. Genesis 3:1 In Hebrew you is plural in verses 1–5 b. Genesis 3:6 Or to give insight

The visual attraction of the forbidden fruit, gave way to a desire to eat the fruit and become wise. Having eaten of the forbidden fruit, both Adam and Eve had their eyes opened, and they saw their nakedness and became ashamed. We must give credit or discredit to crafty Satan, who tempted the pair by telling them that the fruit would open their eyes to good and evil, making them like GOD.  Satan was the distraction, appealing to a desire to be wise like GOD, led Eve and Adam, who was with her, away from the righteous path to disobey GOD’s commandment.

The temptation caused by vane desire to be like GOD, and to question HIS authority, led to their downfall. This fall from GOD’s grace, by desiring that which appeals to our vanity and ego, is repeated over and over again, as we see in our next Scripture passage, Matthew 19:16-22, tells of a wealthy young man, who approaches Jesus, and asks the Lord: what good deed must he do in order to obtain eternal life or righteousness with GOD?

Matthew 19:16-22 (ESV): The Rich Young Man

BLCF: Christ-rich-young-ruler-hoffmanl

16 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19 Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Jesus then tells the young man to be good he must follow the Ten Commandments given by God, delivered to the people of Israel by Moses. The young man replies to the Lord that he has obeyed all the commandments, asking what else must he do? Jesus tells the young man that in order to be perfect he should sell all his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and then follow the Lord. I believe the Lord discerned that there remained one stumbling block, which was his wealth and possessions, that he valued more than following the path of GOD. The man became sorrowful, as he could not part with his great worldly possessions in exchange for the promise of treasure in heaven.

This is the problem with desiring and then acquiring something that appeals to our vanity that we value above anything else, is the consequence that achieving the object of our desire usually results in shame, as was the case of Adam and Eve, or in sorrow, as happened to the rich young man who sought eternal life.

The Apostle John pointed out this dilemma in 1 John 2:15-17, by admonishing us not to place our love and affection upon things of the world:

1 John 2:15-17 (ESV): Do Not Love the World

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15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life[a]—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.

Footnotes: a. 1 John 2:16 Or pride in possessions

We see how easy we, like Adam, Eve and the rich young man, can be tempted by the desire for things of the world, which draw us away from GOD’s grace and the promise of eternal life. For the path of the world, which is Satan’s road, leads to sin, our sin, which keeps all of us apart from the light of the Lord, HIS glory and HIS grace.

BLCF: worship-spirit-truth

How,  then, do we discover the way back from a life of sin, and come back to worship GOD in truth and spirit? GOD gave us HIS son, Jesus not just to remove from all of us the judgment of sin, but to be our advocate in heaven. If we decide to abide in Christ and follow the illuminated path, which is the “Way of the Lord”, as we see in 1 John 2:1-11 (ESV):

Christ Our Advocate

BLCF: Christ pleads as an advocate for his people_

2 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

The New Commandment

BLCF: new-commandment

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because[a] the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him[b] there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

BLCF: The-Greatest-Commandment

The Apostle John reaffirms Christ’s New Commandment in 1 John 2:1-11: By loving GOD and by keeping HIS word or commandment of loving GOD and loving our brother, is the only way to keep us on the path of light, provide by our Lord, Jesus.

We know that desiring worldly things is to follow the path of darkness, which lead to  sin, shame, sorrow and ultimately to death. The Lord’s path of light is the only way to salvation and eternal life.

In order to discern, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit, sent by our Advocate, the Lord Jesus, to help us understand and value not worldly wealth and treasures, but that which is true treasure: His Word and  the path of the Spirit, as described in Paul’s epistle, Ephesians 1:16-21. For what Paul wrote to the church, which are the believers in Ephesus, applies to any body of Christian believers, who see to worship GOD in spirit and truth:

Ephesians 1:16-21 (ESV):

BLCF: Ephesians_1_18

16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18 having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.

I would like to conclude our lesson today, by reading from Psalm 119, verses 33-40, as a prayer for our own faith and understanding. May we seek to turn away from treasures of the world, seeking, instead, to find our heavenly treasure, which is eternal life by way of our Lord Jesus:

Let us pray…

Psalm 119:33-40 (ESV){

BLCF: Psalm119_35

33 Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes;     

and I will keep it to the end.[a]

34 Give me understanding, that I may keep your law     

and observe it with my whole heart.

35 Lead me in the path of your commandments,    

 for I delight in it. 36 Incline my heart to your testimonies,     

and not to selfish gain!

37 Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things;     

and give me life in your ways.

38 Confirm to your servant your promise,     

that you may be feared.

39 Turn away the reproach that I dread,     

for your rules are good.

40 Behold, I long for your precepts;     

in your righteousness give me life!

AMEN.

Footnotes: a. Psalm 119:33 Or keep it as my reward

at_the_end

Closing Hymn #252: O Soul, Are You Weary and Troubled?                                    

Benediction – Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,  to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

 

BLCF: esa of Avila Blue

Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’ 

© October 3, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on November 4, 2018

BLCF Bulletin November 4, 2018

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                           

Opening Hymn #248: And Can It Be That I should Gain; Choruses                            

Tithing and Prayer; Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                          

Responsive Reading #662: Freedom from Sin (Romans 5 and 6)                           

Message by Steve Mickelson:  

‘Not Casting the First Stone and Other Lessons of Love’  

                                

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church, on this, the first Sunday of October, 2021. Today, being the first Sunday of the month makes it a Communion Sunday. However, due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, our church remains closed to services and other group activities, with lessons continuing to be presented in virtual format. If we were open today, we would celebrate the first Sunday of the month by the giving of communion. There is no BLCF Church membership requirement to take Communion, only the conviction that Christ, Jesus is Lord and Saviour, who died for your sins, rose from the grave by the power of the Spirit, ascended to heaven, sending us the Holy Spirit to be our companion, forever.

When we talk about taking Communion, we remember the sacrifice of the Lord, whose death on the cross resulted in the forgiveness of all sin, allowed us, by way of faith, the means to avoid the judgment for sin. Jesus came not to fulfill the Law, but to fulfill the judgment mandated by the law, by surrendering his life as a payment for the death judgment awaiting us all.

In John 8, verses 1-11, we have an account how the scribes and Pharisees brought a woman, caught in the act of adultery, asking Jesus how they should deal with her crime, as the Law stipulated death by stoning. This was intended to be not only a test of Jesus’ knowledge of Hebrew Law and the consequences one may expect for violating it. Let us begin today’s lesson reading this passage from John’s Gospel:

John 8:1-11 (ESV)

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”

These eleven verses, from the eighth chapter of John’s Gospel, provide us with a wealth of knowledge and understanding how violation of the Law, in this case, the seventh of the ten itemized in Exodus 20. In this case Exodus 20:14, 14 “You shall not commit adultery.

The woman had broken the Law and the scribes, Pharisees, and others gathered expected a pronouncement of death to the woman. This was the same judgment that the people of Israel expected when Moses brought the Laws from God down from the mountain, Exodus 20:18-21 (ESV):

18 Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid[a] and trembled, and they stood far off 19 and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.”21 The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.                                                                     

Footnotes: a. Exodus 20:18 Samaritan, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate; Masoretic Text the people saw

These Laws came from God to instill a respect of God’s ordinances, and an avoidance of sin by the people, so as to not have Him render judgment upon them. But the people feared that if they heard God speak to them, that they will surely die. The Law was intended to guide the people on a righteous path of behaviour, to demonstrate their love for God and for others.

In the case of Jesus and the adulteress, Jesus indicated that no man or woman is innocent of sin, and therefore none are qualified to act as judge and executioner. That is God’s privy, and as such, He alone has the authority to render judgment or its consequences upon sinners. This does not mean that there won’t be any judgment for violation of the Law, which will be rendered by God, alone.

Did scribes and Pharisees take the words of our Lord to heart? Apparently not, as we see the actions taken against the Apostle Stephen, whom Christian scholars are considered to be the first Christian martyr, as we see in this account taken from Chapter 7 of the Acts of the Apostles:

Acts 7:54-60 (ESV): The Stoning of Stephen

54 Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. 55 But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” 57 But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together[a] at him. 58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Footnotes:a. Acts 7:57 Or rushed with one mind

Though Jesus had been sent to pay the penalty for sin, we that human tendency to sin had not eliminated. Though Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, in that he saw Jesus standing at the right-hand side of God, the Father, the lord did not intervene. Stephen’s last words before he died were a plea to the Lord not to hold the sin of murder against them. You may note that watching the garments of the murderous mob, was a young man named Saul, better known as Saul of Tarsus.

Saul’s testimony on the matter is recorded in Acts 22:1-21:

Acts 22:1-21 (ESV)

22 “Brothers and fathers, hear the defense that I now make before you.”

And when they heard that he was addressing them in the Hebrew language,[a] they became even more quiet. And he said:

“I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city, educated at the feet of Gamaliel[b] according to the strict manner of the law of our fathers, being zealous for God as all of you are this day. I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering to prison both men and women, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can bear me witness. From them I received letters to the brothers, and I journeyed toward Damascus to take those also who were there and bring them in bonds to Jerusalem to be punished.

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me. And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand[c] the voice of the one who was speaking to me. 10 And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ 11 And since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, I was led by the hand by those who were with me, and came into Damascus.

12 “And one Ananias, a devout man according to the law, well spoken of by all the Jews who lived there, 13 came to me, and standing by me said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that very hour I received my sight and saw him. 14 And he said, ‘The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth; 15 for you will be a witness for him to everyone of what you have seen and heard. 16 And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.’

17 “When I had returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance 18 and saw him saying to me, ‘Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ 19 And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in one synagogue after another I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. 20 And when the blood of Stephen your witness was being shed, I myself was standing by and approving and watching over the garments of those who killed him.’ 21 And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Footnotes: a. Acts 22:2 Or the Hebrew dialect (probably Aramaic) b.Acts 22:3 Or city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated c. Acts 22:9 Or hear with understanding

We see that before his conversion Saul had busied himself by rounding up and persecuting Christians. And in the process of one of the first persecutions, Saul witnessed Stephen’s death by stoning while he stood by watching over the garments of the members of the crowd who killed the Apostle.

But why was there no judgment from God against Saul or the mob who had murdered Stephen?  God had no plans for members of the mob in general, he did have plans for Saul, whose name would be changed to Paul, after his conversion. We see the degree of conviction demonstrated in Paul’s testimony, expressed in the following epistle addressed by the Apostle to members of the Church in Rome, see Romans 10:9-10:

Romans 10:9-10 (ESV)

 because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

Paul said that salvation comes to those who confess that Jesus is Lord, whom God raised from the dead. This confession comes not from a fear of a judgment by God, but a belief in the heart that Jesus died and was raised from the dead. We know from last week’s lesson, that the heart is associated with the intangible aspect of our beliefs, such as love, faith, and hope. With this belief, comes the tangible response of confession of our belief that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins. And from that expression of faith, God will respond to the tangible sacrifice made by His Son on the cross with the intangible actions of our own justification and salvation through Christ, which in turn leads to the tangible actions of our own resurrection and granted eternal life.

All of God’s actions come as an expression of God’s love for us for us and our love for Him. For only He is able to make manifest the tangible from the intangible, merely by His own Word.

Let us pray…

Jesus loves you BLCF

Closing Hymn #286: Years I Spent in Vanity and Pride

Benediction – (1 Timothy 1:17): 

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen

BLCF: God is Love

God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’

 © September 26, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages shared with BLCF Church, on October 28, 2018, and on June 12, 2016

BLCF Bulletin June 12, 2016

Announcements and Call to Worship; Prayer                                                       

Opening Hymn #199: Brethren, We Have Met to Worship; Choruses

Prayer Requests and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings; Prayers

Responsive Reading #594: God’s Commandments (-from Exodus 20 and Matthew 22)                             

Message by Steve Mickelson:                                                                                  ‘

God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church on this, the first Sunday of Fall, 2021. There is a challenge to the Christian Church today, especially as completing Christ’s Gospel, unto the ends of the earth. It can be a challenge to demonstrate to other people who dwell in a tangible world, the reality of a God who may seem to have an intangible existence.

But before we begin today’s lesson: ‘God’s Love: It Makes the Intangible, Tangible’, let us check a definition of terms used within today’s lesson. The first is from dictionary.com:

Tangible – 1580-90; < Late Latin tangibilis, equivalent to Latin tang (ere) to touch + -ibilis -ible

adjective

  1. capable of being touched; discernible by the touch; material or substantial.
  2. real or actual, rather than imaginary or visionary: the tangible benefits of sunshine.
  3. definite; not vague or elusive: no tangible grounds for suspicion.
  4. (of an asset) having actual physical existence, as real estate or chattels, and therefore capable of being assigned a value in monetary terms.

noun

  1. something tangible, especially a tangible asset.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/tangible

intangible

adjective

  1. not tangible; incapable of being perceived by the sense of touch, as incorporeal or immaterial things; impalpable.
  2. not definite or clear to the mind: intangible arguments.
  3. (of an asset) existing only in connection with something else, as the goodwill of a business.

noun

  1. something intangible, especially an intangible asset: Intangibles are hard to value.

http://www.dictionary.com/browse/intangible

For bookkeepers and accountants, who must balance ledgers and deal with assets that are either tangible or intangible. Sometimes the intangible assets are called goodwill assets. The interesting aspect of a tangible asset is that it depreciates each year so that after several years, the tangible asset no longer has any book value. By contrast, intangible assets hold their value and very often grow in value over time. Consider the trademark for McDonald’s Restaurants, the double arches. The value of this intangible asset is far more valuable today than when the trademark was first adopted:

Q: What is the difference between goodwill and tangible assets?

By Investopedia | January 8, 2015 — 2:11 AM EST

A: Companies can own two type of assets: tangible and intangible. Tangible assets are assets that take physical form. These are made up of fixed assets, such as buildings, vehicles and machinery. They are also composed of current assets, which include cash and inventory. Goodwill is a form of intangible asset, along with the likes of contracts and patents. Although an intangible asset does not have a physical form, it still provides value to the company. Tangible assets are far easier to liquidate than intangible assets; machinery and buildings have a secondary market.

Goodwill is created as the result of the purchase of one company by another at a premium. It represents the difference between the price paid by the purchaser and the target company’s book value. It reflects the premium paid for a company’s reputation, technology, brands and other less tangible attributes.

Given that goodwill arises as a residual portion of the purchase price, it cannot be measured directly. It can be independently appraised on assumptions based on the excess value of the business being purchased.

For tangible assets, if there is an anticipated useful life of more than one year, then there is a requirement for the assets’ worth to be depreciated over their useful lives. Prior to 2001, accounting rules required goodwill to be amortized over a period of up to 40 years. However, in 2001, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued an accounting pronouncement that ended automatic amortization of goodwill. As a result, goodwill is now measured annually to determine whether there has been an impairment loss. If there is no impairment, goodwill can remain on a company’s balance sheet indefinitely.

http://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/010815/what-difference-between-goodwill-and-tangible-assets.asp

Thinking of the phrase “Peace on Earth to men of goodwill” makes me consider how the growth of believers or the faith of Christians, that is the growth of this goodwill or intangible aspect of Christ’s Gospel message, adopted by members of Christ’s Church, which continues to accumulate and grow over time, unaffected by the rules of depreciation that occur if these assets were tangible in nature.

We know that there is the promise, that where two or more are gathered in the Lord’s name, then He is there in Spirit. I believe this call indicates that two or more people are gathered together in His name, then He will be there in the Spirit, indicates how the Spirit rewards those believers who gather and call on the Lord, as we find in BLCF at each Sunday Morning Prayer and Worship Service, as well at Wednesday Prayer and Bible Study, and at other functions of BLCF Church. By definition, the Church is comprised of the believers who assemble together in this space. For the last 18 months, we see our faith in ourselves and each other challenged by a deadly COVID-19 Pandemic, which continues to test the bonds of our faith by the safety rules and restrictions necessary to protect others and ourselves from infection to a deadly virus that increases when people gather together in places of worship and while celebrating communion and dinner gatherings. We remain unified in the Holy Spirit of God, whether alone or assembled as a congregation.

Often non-believers, and some believers – remember Thomas, the disciple, seek tangible proof of the Gospel of Jesus, including Christ’s resurrection and the presence of the Holy Spirit. It is at times. because of health, travel, sickness, or a pandemic, Christians find that are not able to gather together physically in the same place as a congregation, that we are challenge to support each other and maintain ties that bind by way of phone, text, and email.  While unable to pray for each other, we may support one another by prayer over the phone when we address our Father, in the name of His Son, by praying in the Spirit. We should consider that this Pandemic has placed the burden of physical isolation upon us all, but we remain united together in the Holy Spirit. Supporting others in a the congregation who are unable to assemble in a tangible way, through the intangible means of prayer, by phone and message is a perfect example of expressions of the intangibles of love, faith, and prayer that are characteristics the Holy Spirit!

Let us look at the first Scripture passage in today’s lesson, from  Jeremiah 2:1-22,  where the people of Israel forsake God, to worship tangible idols and non-existent gods such as Baal:

  Jeremiah 2:1-22 (ESV): Israel Forsakes the Lord

2 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 

 “Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord,

“I remember the devotion of your youth, your love as a bride, how you followed me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the Lord.”

Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the clans of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord:

“What wrong did your fathers find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthlessness, and became worthless? They did not say, ‘Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that none passes through, where no man dwells?’

And I brought you into a plentiful land to enjoy its fruits and its good things. But when you came in, you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination.                                                                                                                   

The priests did not say, ‘Where is the Lord?’  Those who handle the law did not know me; the shepherds[a] transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal and went after things that do not profit.

“Therefore I still contend with you, declares the Lord, and with your children’s children I will contend.10 For cross to the coasts of Cyprus and see, or send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has been such a thing. 11 Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for that which does not profit.

12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord,13 for my people have committed two evils:                                                                                                                 

they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

14 “Is Israel a slave? Is he a homeborn servant? Why then has he become a prey? 15 The lions have roared against him; they have roared loudly. They have made his land a waste; his cities are in ruins, without inhabitant.16 Moreover, the men of Memphis and Tahpanhes have shaved[b] the crown of your head. 17 Have you not brought this upon yourself by forsaking the Lord your God, when he led you in the way?

18 And now what do you gain by going to Egypt to drink the waters of the Nile? Or what do you gain by going to Assyria to drink the waters of the Euphrates?[c] 19 Your evil will chastise you, and your apostasy will reprove you. Know and see that it is evil and bitter for you to forsake the Lord your God; the fear of me is not in you, declares the Lord God of hosts.

20 “For long ago I broke your yoke and burst your bonds; but you said, ‘I will not serve.’ Yes, on every high hill and under every green tree you bowed down like a whore.

21 Yet I planted you a choice vine, wholly of pure seed. How then have you turned degenerate and become a wild vine? 22 Though you wash yourself with lye and use much soap, the stain of your guilt is still before me, declares the Lord God.

Footnotes: a. Jeremiah 2:8 Or rulers b. Jeremiah 2:16 Hebrew grazed c. Jeremiah 2:18 Hebrew the River

The Gospel of Christ is filled with intangibles such as love, faith, hope, sin, guilt, worship, prayer, forgiveness, sanctification and God’s Covenants. Then there are some of the tangible aspects of Jesus which include: the crucifixion, the Scriptures, providing for the needs of the poor, the partaking of the elements of communion.

Now there is a third category, which I would like to  describe as physical or tangible expressions of our intangible God: the miracles, including the Word, Made Flesh, the Resurrection of Christ, the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit to every believer, as well our promised resurrection and eternal life with the Lord.

Hebrews 12:18-29 (ESV): A Kingdom That Cannot Be Shaken

18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly[a] of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Footnotes: a. Hebrews 12:23 Or church

The Kingdom of God is not of this world and therefore not subject to the destruction that occurs to structures and other tangibles, today.

Matthew 22:34-40 (ESV): The Great Commandment

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Of all the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses for the People of Israel, the two that Jesus spoke about describe an intangible aspect of our relationship with God and our neighbor, which is love. Love is not subject to worldly influences. The other Eight Commandments deal with property, and physical tangible aspects of our relationships, which makes them of lesser importance than how we deal with our God and neighbor. If we apply love to any or all of the Ten Commandments, we would expect a positive outcome in our relationship with God, except for the issue of sin.

Sin inhibits our ability to successfully adhere to or follow the Ten Commandments. In this regard, all of us fail and fall short of God’s glory. However, God loved us so much, that He gave us His only Son, Jesus as a propitiation for sin. While Jesus’ sacrifice does not eliminate sin, it takes away the judgment of death for sin. In place of death of the death penalty, God makes provision for the final sacrifice by way of Jesus’ death on the cross. And the resurrected Christ, who ascended to heaven leads to the gifting of the companion of the Holy Spirit. We see that each stage of salvation and reconciliation has a tangible and intangible aspect. Christ was born,  he ministers, then died, was resurrected from death and ascended to heaven, all are tangibles. And all of these aspects of Christ’s Gospel are impossible without the intangible Godly attributes of love, compassion, faith, hope, and the Spirit’s influence.

John 1:14 (ESV): Word Made Flesh

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Let us pray…

BLCF: God is Love

Closing Hymn #374: Take Thou Our Minds, Dear Lord

Benediction – (Romans 12:2): Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Jesus-died-for-our-sins

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?’

© September 19, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared With BLCF on October 16, 2016 and on September 14, 2014

BLCF-bulletin-october-16-2016

BLCF: Bulletin September 14, 2014

BLCF: cant-to-can

Announcements and Call to Worship:                                                                  

Responsive Reading #633 (The Good Shepherd – John 10); Prayer                                                              

Opening Hymn #237: What Can Wash Away My Sin? ; Choruses                                             

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings

BLCF: miughty-to-sin.jpg

Romans 3:23 (ESV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

1 John 1:7-9 (ESV)

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV) Mystery and Victory

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Greek a living soul b. 1 Corinthians 15:49 Some manuscripts let us

BLCF: Who_do_you_say_I_Am

Let us pray…

Good morning and welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship. For the lesson today, I would like to pose a few questions: Who is Jesus? What is sin? What do they mean to me?

To answer these questions, we must first understand their relevance to each other and their mutual context, as found in the Scriptures. Jesus came to propitiate God for sin by his crucifixion on the cross. And what is meant by sin? Romans 3:23 indicates all humanity have “sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Is sin the act By Adam and Eve of disobedience to God’s ordinance, which was the command not to eat fruit from the “Tree of Knowledge”, as described in Genesis 3?

The Apostle Paul describes manifestations of sin as “works of flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV):

19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Our hope comes from the blood that Christ shed on our behalf to cleanse us from the unrighteousness of sins which we confess or admit, as describe in 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV):

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

And with salvation, by faith in Jesus, comes the promise of the resurrection from death and a life immortal, as described in our next Scripture passage, from 1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (ESV), entitled the Mystery and Victory:

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 15:45 Greek a living soul b. 1 Corinthians 15:49 Some manuscripts let us

But some might ask: “Who is Jesus, that he might be capable of removing sin’s stain from each and every believer’s life?”

BLCF: I-Am-Jesus

For Jesus is more than a Saviour, as even Christ describes himself using more than a dozen distinct terms, which you will find on the back of today’s bulletin. In the passages, taken from various passages in John’s Gospel, are a set of descriptors, theologians refer today as the “I Am’s of Jesus”:

John 6:51 (ESV) 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

John 8:23 (ESV) 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.

John 8:12 (ESV) 12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:58 (ESV) 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”

John 10:9 (ESV) I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.

John 10:11 (ESV) 11 I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.

John 10:36 (ESV) 36 do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

John 11:25 (ESV) 25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

John 14:6 (ESV) Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

John 15:1 (ESV) 15 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.

And what does Christ mean when repeatedly exclaims that “I am”’? let us check an online dictionary:

Am – verb – 1st person singular present indicative of be.

http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/am?s=t

In other words, Jesus states that he describes himself as: living bread; not of this world; the light of the world; before Abraham (he existed before Abraham); the door; the good shepherd; one with the Father (God); Son of God; the resurrection; the life; the way; the truth; the true vine.

Jesus exists is multifaceted and multidimensional in relation to our needs.

If the verses above, containing a descriptor that is preceded by “I am” sounds familiar, you may recall Moses’ encounter with God, the latter appearing as a “burning bush” in Exodus 3:13-15 (ESV):

13 Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 God said to Moses, “I am who I am.”[a] And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I am has sent me to you.’” 15 God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord,[b] the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations.

Footnotes: a. Exodus 3:14 Or I am what I am, or I will be what I will be b.Exodus 3:15 The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, “to be” in verse 14

It is totally fitting that Jesus describe himself in the same manner in John’s Gospel as God described Himself in Exodus 3. After all, Jesus tells us in John 10:30 (ESV), that:

I and the Father are one

Both Christ and the Father are part of the Godhead, commonly called the Holy Trinity, with the third part being the Holy Spirit.

So far we have answered the first two questions I raised at the beginning of today’s lesson: “Who is Jesus?” and “What is sin?” But what about the third question, referring to the previous two: “What do the mean to me?”

This question was answered within some the verses that we studied today. Each of us is guilty of sin, as indicated in Romans 3:23 (ESV):

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We only need to believe that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for our sins, as we see in John 11:25 (ESV):

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live,

As followers of the Resurrected Christ, we walk in the light, cleansed from all of sins unrighteousness, remember the Scripture passage from, 1 John 1:7-9 (ESV):

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

BLCF: walking_in_light_vs_darkness

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn # 158: I Serve a Risen Savior

Benediction – (Hebrews 13:20-21):

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: Peace through Jesus

Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth – A 911 Message for 9-11-2021

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship: Lest We Forget 911Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship: Lest We Forget 911

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth

© September 12, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on September 11, 2016

BLCF: bulletin-september-11-2016

True Worship

Announcements & Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #613 (God’s Invitation – Isaiah 55); Prayer 

Opening Hymn #581: There’s a Sweet, Sweet Spirit; Choruses

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                      

BLCF: Isaiah-55-6-seek-ye-the-lord-while-he-may-be-found-call-ye-upon-him-while-he-is-near

Let us pray…

Welcome to BLCF Church Praise and Worship Service on this Sunday, September 12, 2021. This happens to be one day after the twentieth anniversary of the 911 attack against our neighbors to the south. While it was not the first or last time the United States suffered the loss to innocent members of society, the events that happened on that fateful morning in September 2001 dramatically changed many aspects of life in the USA.

The country was drawn into two wars, leading to casualties of soldiers and civilians, became a more anxious nation, and still seems to have not completely healed from the losses on 911 and the subsequent wars and attacks. We pray that the country and its leaders can find enough closure to pursue a healing to the national psyche in order to focus on a future of peace, harmony, renewal, and hope.

Our lesson today is entitled: ‘Seeking to Worship the Father in Spirit and in Truth’, we will examine several positive affects that occur while a Christian seeks God during trying times.

The lessons Christians learn while seeking the Lord when death, disaster, and destruction comes our way, apply not only apply to 911 and the aftermath of the events September 11, 2001, but are just as valid today, during a COVID-19 Pandemic, where 677,017 Americans  and 27,170 Canadians have died from COVID-19 (and counting), also apply to such current disasters such as massive floods, wildfires, earthquakes, and droughts.

Sadly, the first responders who were 911 heroes are no longer treated as heroes of the Pandemic, where vocal protestors in both  Canada and the US have engaged hospital staff and patients with loud protests. The protestors who seem oblivious of the fact that any masking or vaccine policies designed to protect the public are mandated from the seats of government legislature. I call any such aberrant behavior an expression of a “COVID Malaise“. Please treat our heroes, who have sacrificed more than we can imagine, in a manner befitting their dedication and sacrifice.

come from away musical

Friday, Sophie and I were able to see streamed the musical “Come From Away” which tells the story of 7,000 airplane passengers who were stranded in Gander, Newfoundland, and the 9,000 townsfolk of Gander and the surrounding villages, who shared their homes, meals, clothes, and friendship during the 911 crisis in 2001. The musical is an entertaining, poignant, funny, and endearing narrative that demonstrates how love and kindness can elevate both the giver and the recipient at a time of great crisis. Two thumbs up from Sophie and me. I would classify the events portrayed in “Come From Away” as a great example of the lessons found in Matthew 25:31-46 being put into practice:! 👍👍

Matthew 25:31-46: The Final Judgment (ESV)

31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40 And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.’

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44 Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45 Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The unfortunate the emotional toll and damage, a type of PTSD, that collaterally is the result of great calamities like the events of 911, the Pandemic, or other catastrophes, can result in some blaming God, doctors, politicians, friends, family, and hospital workers for their circumstances, unaware that they are part of the problem not the solution. The majority of people currently hospitalized in ICU’s in Canada and the US, (90% in many areas, with 100% in British Columbia), are the unvaccinated.

Pandemic Not A Hoax Wear A Mask See You Soon

What is a Christian, as described in the verses from the Bible quoted in today’s lesson? We will have more of an in-depth examination of what it means to be a Christian during next Sunday’s lesson, which is entitled: Who is Jesus? What is Sin? What Do They Mean to Me?  But, to give a brief answer to the question, a Christian is someone who has either read or heard and believed the Gospel of Jesus. A Gospel which says that Jesus came to us, as both the Son of God and son of man, to die on the cross to remove the Father’s judgment for humanity’s sin.

Any person seeking Christ as  his or her Saviour must be willing to confess any sins and acknowledge a sinful nature. This decision of  faith also includes a belief that Christ died for our sins, was resurrected from death, ascended to heaven, and sent to the believer the  gift of God’s Holy Spirit.

We find a description of how the Lord encourages us to actively seek Him out in our next Scripture verse, which is Isaiah 55:6-13:

             Isaiah 55:6-13 (ESV)

Seek the Lord Isaiah 55 6-13

 “Seek the Lord while he may be found;
    call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake his way,
    and the unrighteous man his thoughts;
let him return to the Lord, that he may have compassion on him,
    and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
    neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.

10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

12 “For you shall go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you
    shall break forth into singing,
    and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;
    instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;
and it shall make a name for the Lord,
    an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”

It is interesting that in the above Scripture that a seeker of God may only find compassion and a pardon from Him, has a stumbling blocking in the path to successfully achieving the goal in finding the glory that comes from God. Though any may seek God’s favour and pardon, sins separates the seeker from finding them.

But even seekers of the presence of the Lord fail when they attempt to rely on a worldly, physical approach to finding Him. As a result, many seekers believe that they may find God by obeying His Commandments and by overt actions in their worship. You may recall the lesson from the account of The Rich Young Man in Matthew 19:16-22, where a wealthy young man who had observed all of God’s Commandments and still question Jesus as to what else did he have to do to get into heaven?

Because the Lord detected that the rich young man valued his wealth more than his God and really was not inclined to get rid of his riches and give to the poor in order to be “perfect” enough to follow Jesus. In this regards, the young man had fully loved neither God nor others more than his wealth, which means that wealth was his idol, his false god.

But the rich man was not the only person who worshipped, as we see in our second Scripture verse, Acts 17:22-34, where Paul Addresses the Areopagus. Before we discuss Paul’s address, let us check our Wikibits for a definition of the meaning of Areopagus:

Areopagus – from Wikipedia.com

Areopagus_Raphael,_St_Paul_Preaching_in_Athens_(1515)

The term “Areopagus” also refers to the judicial body of aristocratic origin that subsequently formed the higher court of modern Greece.

The Areopagus, like most city-state institutions, continued to function in Roman times, and it was from this location, drawing from the potential significance of the Athenian altar to the Unknown God, that the Apostle Paul is said to have delivered the famous speech, “Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.” (Acts 17:24)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Areopagus

The Areopagus literally meant the rock of Ares in the city and was a center of temples, cultural facilities, and a high court.

Let us continue with Paul’s address to a people who were very religious in their behavior, but not finding the true Spirit of God:

Acts 17:22-34 (ESV): Paul Addresses the Areopagus

Acts 17 22-34

 22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,[a] 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;[b]

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’[c]

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

Footnotes: a. Acts 17:24 Greek made by hands b. Acts 17:28 Probably from Epimenides of Crete c. Acts 17:28 From Aratus’s poem “Phainomena”

In his message to the Areopagus, Paul drew a comparison of the true God to the “unknown” god, one of many gods that they worshipped.

The true God could not be adequately be described or represented by a sculpture, a painting, or even by words. How can we properly describe a Creator, Whom no one has ever seen? So how can we relate or understand our God, beyond our faith?

God sent us His, son Jesus so that we could better understand Him and his love for us. Jesus taught us the importance of understanding that God reveals Himself by His Spirit and truth, and to make the sacrifice providing a way to salvation, as was promised in 2 Chronicles 7:14-15 (ESV): 

2 Chronicles 7 14-15 Lord Heal Our Land

14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 15 Now my eyes will be open and my ears attentive to the prayer that is made in this place.

Christians accept that Jesus died for our sins, was resurrected from death, and ascended to heaven, both as our advocate to the Father in heaven and in order to gift believers with the Holy Spirit. The Spirit not only convicts us of God’s truth, but it also admonishes us to continue to follow in the path of Christ and to share the Gospel of Jesus unto the ends of the earth.

This Great Commission is not something that Christians can postpone or put off to a later time. We must continue to minister the Gospel, until the day that Christ returns to judge all. This day, known as The Day of the Lord is described in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11:

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (ESV): The Day of the Lord

Standing Firm The Day of the Lord 1 Thessalonians 5 1-11

Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, are drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

God is Spirit

We must keep sharing the Gospel today, helping the less fortunate brothers and sisters, for not only do we seek Him, but God seeks us to worship Him in spirit and truth:

John 4:23-24 (ESV)

 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Remember, when you trust in the Lord as you encounter trials of various kinds, that test your faith, you will learn steadfastness, which in-turn will become perfect, complete and lacking in nothing, James 1:1-4 (ESV): 

1 James, a servant[a] of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.

Count it all joy, my brothers,[b] when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

James 1 1-4 Joy

Let us pray…                                                                                                                                          

Closing Hymn #49: A Pilgrim Was I and A-wandering

Benediction – (Romans 15:13):

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Romans 15-13

 

Resting with the Lord and the Spirit that Surpasses All Understanding

BLCF: Holy_Spirit

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

Come and Rest

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

Resting with the Lord and a Spirit that Surpasses All Understanding’

© September 5, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on Messages Shared at BLCF on August 31, 2014 and October 30, 2016

BLCF Bulletin August 31, 2014

BLCF Bulletin-October-30-2016

BLCF: I-will-give-you-rest

Announcements and Call to Worship:                                                                                                            

Responsive Reading # 670 (The Day of the Lord – 2 Peter 3); Prayer           

Opening Hymn #317: Blessed Assurance, Jesus Is Mine                                      

Prayer and Tithing Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings                

BLCF: happy labour day

Exodus 33:14 (ESV)

14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, ministering the Gospel in the heart of Toronto, on this, the first Sunday of September 2021. A day that falls in the middle of the Labour Day Weekend, where most Canadians traditionally mark the end of  their summer vacations and a return to work and school.

For additional background on our Labor Day, let us check our Wikibits, from timeanddate.com:

BLCF: Labour-Day

Labour Day Background

 The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to April 15, 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada’s first significant demonstration for worker’s rights. The aim of the demonstration was to release the 24 leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union who were imprisoned for striking to campaign for a nine-hour working day. At this time, trade unions were still illegal and striking was seen as a criminal conspiracy to disrupt trade. In spite of this, the Toronto Trades Assembly was already a significant organization and encouraged workers to form trade unions, mediated in disputes between employers and employees and signaled the mistreatment of workers.

There was enormous public support for the parade and the authorities could no longer deny the important role that the trade unions had to play in the emerging Canadian society. A few months later, a similar parade was organized in Ottawa and passed the house of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John Macdonald. Later in the day, he appeared before the gathering and promised to repeal all Canadian laws against trade unions. This happened in the same year and eventually led to the founding of the Canadian Labour Congress in 1883.

Labour Day was originally celebrated in the spring but it was moved to the fall after 1894. A similar holiday, Labor Day is held on the same day in the United States of America. Canadian trade unions are proud that this holiday was inspired by their efforts to improve workers’ rights. Many countries have a holiday to celebrate workers’ rights on or around May 1.

http://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/canada/labour-day

BLCF:Understanding_Baptism

For this morning’s message, I would like to talk about a different type of labour among the faithful, just prior to when Jesus gave the world his gift of salvation by way of his sacrifice for our sins on the cross. Before Calvary, sinners sought to be cleansed of their sins by sacrificial offerings at the temple and immersion in water, in an effort to be cleansed of their sins, as we read in following history from bible.ca:

Baptism

When John the Baptist came to the deserts of Judea “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” he was met with great success. Matthew 3:5 says, “People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Luke adds that crowds were coming out to be baptized by him. And, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too.” (Luke 3:7, 21).

The Jewish people to whom John’s ministry was directed were familiar with the concepts of repentance and forgiveness of sins (1 Kings 8:33-34; Isa 55:6, 7) even though complete forgiveness was not possible apart from the shed blood of Christ (Hebrews 9:15). But what about baptism? What familiarity did the Jews of the first century have with the practice of baptism?

Baptism Spirit

The New Testament clearly points out that the baptism of John was from God. It came from heaven (Matthew 21:25). It was administered for the spiritual purpose of proclaiming repentance and receiving forgiveness of sins (Mark 1:4).

http://www.bible.ca/ef/topical-baptism-a-prechristian-history.htm

BLCF: Hebrews-8-7-Old-and-New-Covenants

So prior to baptism of the Holt Spirit after Pentecost, Jews practiced the rituals of circumcision, sacrifice, and baptism in an effort to cleanse themselves of unrighteousness. As John the Baptist expressed the futility of these rituals in Matthew 3:11:

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.

As believers in the Resurrected Christ, we know that our salvation comes as a gift from God, not from ritual works, so that we may not become prideful and boast. This brings us to our second set of Scripture verses found in Matthew 11.

You may recall the Baptism of Jesus account that we read from Matthew 3, verses 16-17, where God acknowledges his son, Jesus, saying:

16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

BLCF:Jesus_Baptism

Even though God acknowledges Jesus as His son, John the Baptist, who is now in prison, sends messengers to the Lord asking if he is the Christ, Matthew 11:1-6 (ESV):

11 When Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in their cities.

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

The next verses, Jesus speaks of how several cities have not responded to or accepted the good news and miracles of Jesus, as a Gospel from God, (Matthew 11:11-24):

11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. 13 For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, 14 and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. 15 He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates,

17 “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’

18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

Woe to Unrepentant Cities

BLCF: isaiah-5_20-woe

20 Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Salvation comes not by way of mighty works of the Lord, but by  way of repentance or a change in attitude and a desire to stop a life of sin, as expressed in the last part of this Scripture passage, (Matthew 11:25-30):

BLCF: Matthew_11_28

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

What did the Lord mean by his comments, which were are couched in a prayer to the Father in Heaven, where he thanked the Father for revealing Himself and His Son, Jesus to children, but not to the wise? For the answer, let us look at Matthew 11:25-26 (ESV):

25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.

The answer to this question as to who is wise mentioned in Matthew 11:25, let us look to our next Scripture, Genesis 3:4-7 (ESV):

But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

The problem of eating from the forbidden fruit from the tree of knowledge, which was desired to make one wise described in Genesis 3:6, is that resulted in a sin and separation from God.

Through Jesus, the judgment of sin has been removed from all who repent and approach God with the faith of a child and we are given rest from our futile toils made to remove sin’s stain. Hopefully, we have a better understanding of the rest from labour, as described in the Scripture verse written as banner along the wall behind me, Matthew 11:28 (ESV):

 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

And by trusting Jesus, by repenting our sin and seeking God by faith, we receive the gift of the presence of God’s Holy Spirit, to comfort, console and guide us on the righteous way of the Lord. And by receiving the rest and peace of the Spirit, we may walk in a manner like that which God promised to Moses in Exodus 33:14 (ESV):

14 And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.”

With our surrender to the Lord, we are gifted a rest in God’s Holy Spirit, as Jesus has taken upon himself the burden of our sins, giving us salvation as a free gift, and removing the burden of labouring in vain for our salvation. Living for God begins with resting in Him.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn # 373: All to Jesus I Surrender

Benediction: ( Philippians 4:7):

 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

BLCF: Philippians-4_7

Jonah’s Prayer and Testimony

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: Jonah_and_Whale

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church Message for Sunday:

‘Jonah’s Prayer and Testimony’ 

© August 29, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on April 17, 2016

BLCF Bulletin April 17, 2016

BLCF: Jonah&Whale

Call to Worship: Responsive Reading #616 (Christian Baptism – from Matthew 3 and 28, Acts 2, Romans 6); Prayer

Opening Hymn #180: Jesus Is Coming to Earth Again; Choruses

Tithing and Prayer Requests: Hymn #572: Praise God; Prayers                                                      

 Scriptures: Luke 11:29-36; Romans 6:1-14; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18                   

Jonah

Let us pray.

Welcome to our Sunday morning praise and worship service at BLCF Church. For our lesson today, we will examine the Scripture’s account of the Prophet Jonah and the Wale, or to be more precise, a large fish. While a large fish plays a part in the lesson narrative, Jonah’s account is, by no means, a fish story or fishy tale.

Rather than read through the three chapters of the Book of Jonah, let us check what I like to refer to as our Wikibits on the subject, which presents an interpretation that agrees with most Biblical scholars:

Book of Jonah (From Christianity.about.com):

BLCF: Jonah-and-the-Whale

The book of Jonah is different from the other prophetic books of the Bible. Typically, prophets issued warnings or gave instructions to the people of Israel. Instead, God told Jonah to evangelize in the city of Nineveh, home of Israel’s cruelest enemy. Jonah didn’t want those idolaters to be saved, so he ran away.

When Jonah ran from the call of God, one of the oddest events in the Bible occurred—the story of Jonah and the Whale.

The book of Jonah highlights God’s patience and lovingkindness, and his willingness to give those who disobey him a second chance.

Author of the Book of Jonah: The Prophet Jonah, son of Amittai. Date Written: 785-760 B.C.

Jonah and the Whale – Story Summary:

BLCF: jonah_1

The story of Jonah and the Whale, one of the oddest accounts in the Bible, opens with God speaking to Jonah, son of Amittai, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

Jonah found this order unbearable. Not only was Nineveh known for its wickedness, but it was also the capital of the Assyrian empire, one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. Jonah, a stubborn fellow, did just the opposite of what he was told. He went down to the seaport of Joppa and booked passage on a ship to Tarshish, heading directly away from Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces. The terrified crew cast lots, determining that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First they tried rowing to shore, but the waves got even higher.

Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. The crew made a sacrifice to God, swearing vows to him.

Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, which God provided. In the belly of the whale, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer. He praised God, ending with the eerily prophetic statement, “Salvation comes from the Lord.” (Jonah 2:9, NIV)

Jonah was in the giant fish three days. God commanded the whale, and it vomited the reluctant prophet onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed. Surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah’s message and repented, wearing sackcloth and covering themselves in ashes. God had compassion on them and did not destroy them.

Again Jonah questioned God, because Jonah was angry that Israel’s enemies had been spared. When Jonah stopped outside the city to rest, God provided a vine to shelter him from the hot sun. Jonah was happy with the vine, but the next day God provided a worm that ate the vine, making it wither. Growing faint in the sun, Jonah complained again.

God scolded Jonah for being concerned about a vine, but not about Nineveh, which had 120,000 lost people. The story ends with God expressing concern even about the wicked.

Points of Interest from Jonah and the Whale:

  • God commands everything in his Creation, from the weather to a whale, to carry out his plan. God is in control.
  • Jonah spent the same amount of time—three days—inside the whale as Jesus Christ did in the tomb. Christ also preached salvation to the lost.
  • It’s not important whether it was a great fish or a whale that swallowed Jonah. The point of the story is that God can provide a supernatural means of rescue when his people are in trouble.
  • Some scholars believe the Ninevites paid attention to Jonah because of his bizarre appearance. They speculate that the whale’s stomach acid bleached Jonah’s hair, skin, and clothing a ghostly white.
  • Jesus did not consider the book of Jonah to be a fable or myth. While modern skeptics may find it impossible that a man could survive inside a great fish for three days, Jesus compared himself to Jonah, showing that this prophet existed and that the story was historically accurate.

http://christianity.about.com/od/biblestorysummaries/a/Jonah-And-The-Whale.htm

BLCF: jonah7

I would like to suggest to those who have studied animal classification, who might have objections to referring to a whale, a mammal, as being a fish, we should not allow the author some slack, as the inventor of modern scientific classification, Swedish botanist, Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778), had not been born.

While the interchangeable use of whale and fish can be overlooked, the conclusion that the Jonah account parallels the story of Jesus is not completely accurate.

Both Jonah and Jesus came to evangelize the message of God’s plan of forgiveness and salvation, Jonah was God’s Prophet, with Jesus being the Word made flesh. In other words, while Jonah preached God’s plan for saving humanity from the judgement of sin, Jesus’ sacrifice provided humanity with the means to become saved and forgiven, by faith.

The parallel between Jonah and Jesus ends, when we see that Jonah rebelled against God and ran away in the opposite direction.

Jonah willingness to sacrifice his own life to appease God’s anger, in order to save the crew of the boat, has drawn comparisons with the Lord’s self-sacrifice for humanity. The comparison fails when we consider that Jonah had committed the sin of offending God and Jesus was innocent of any sin.

Then, we have the comparison between Jonah and Jesus with regards to the three day’s Jesus’ body was kept in the tomb until his resurrection, being akin to the same number of days Jonah stayed inside the fish. It must be noted that Jonah’s being kept alive by God inside the fish for the three days is not the same as Jesus being dead in the tomb for three days, before being resurrected.

This raises the comparison to what did the Lord mean when he described his own resurrection in Luke 11:29-36 (ESV), as being the The Sign of Jonah:

The Sign of Jonah

BLCF: sign_of_Jonah2

29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.

While both Jonah and Jesus ministered to a sinful world, offering God’s forgiveness, we see the Lord pointed out in verse 32 that his sign or miracle would be not only greater than Jonah’s given to the people of Nineveh, and the Lord’s wisdom is greater than that of King Solomon. For after the Lord death, resurrection and ascension, comes the light of God’s Holy Spirit to all who forgiven by faith, Christ warns us not to hide or extinguish the light of the Spirit and fall back into the darkness of sin, as we continue to read from Luke 11:

The Light in You

BLCF: Jonah4

33 “No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. 34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. 35 Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. 36 If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.”

Like Jonah, believers in the resurrected Christ are commissioned to evangelize the Gospel of Christ unto the ends of the world.

I feel that the lesson to be learned from Jonah’s account does present an example to us of God’s forgiveness and preserving a life for His plan to evangelize to the sinners of the world. However, instead of comparing Jonah’s salvation to Christ’s, we need to view it in the context of the rebirth of Christian believers, who must evangelize, as apostles or messengers to the world of the salvation message contained in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as we see in Romans 6:1-14 (ESV);

Dead to Sin, Alive to God

BLCF: dead2sin

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self[a] was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free[b] from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Footnotes: a. Romans 6:6 Greek man b. Romans 6:7 Greek has been justified

While we are instructed by the Lord to evangelize the Gospel message not as Jonah had to a single people, but the Good News of Jesus unto the ends of the world. We should never lose our hope and faith in Christ’s resurrection and encourage one another in this hope, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (ESV):

The Coming of the Lord

BLCF: 2nd-coming-dramatic

13 But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15 For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord,[a] that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Footnotes: a. 1 Thessalonians 4:15 Or by the word of the Lord

Finally, as believers in the Resurrected Lord, we should take comfort that Jonah, in spite of being confined in the belly of a giant fish, facing his own uncertain fate, did not allow the surrounding darkness  to extinguish the light of his own faith in God, as we see in Jonah’s testimony that is also his prayer, Jonah 2 (ESV), which I would like to read as a closing prayer for today’s lesson.

Let us pray:

Jonah’s Prayer

BLCF: Jonah3

Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying,

“I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Then I said, ‘I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.’
The waters closed in over me to take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
    at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!” (AMEN)

10 And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land.

Closing Hymn #248: One Day When Heaven Was Filled

Benediction – (2 Corinthians 13:14):

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

BLCF: Jonah-Woodcut

Are You Part of the Church or the Body of Christ?

Dear BLCF Friends,

Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church and BLCF Café continue to remain closed effective March 16, 2020, and until further notice. Today we would like to share with you a Lesson in a virtual format. We pray after the advent of a COVID-19 vaccine and following the determination of Health Canada and other Health Authorities the danger of a pandemic has subsided, the Board of BLCF will be able to reopen worship and outreach activities without concern of infection to the vulnerable within our community. In the meantime, please enjoy the following lessons stay safe, and keep the faith.

– Pastor Steve

BLCF: the-church-works-best-when-we-work-together

Message for Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship – BLCF Church:          

Are You Part of the Church or the Body of Christ?

© August 22, 2021, by Steve Mickelson

Based on a Message Shared at BLCF on August 16, 2015

BLCF Bulletin August 16, 2015

BLCF: dont_go_to_church_be_the_church

 

Announcements and Call to Worship – Responsive Reading #620:                                       

The Church (Matthew 16, Ephesians 5 and 2, 1 Corinthians 12, Colossians1)              

Opening Hymn #470: Onward, Christian Soldiers; Choruses                                      

Prayer and Tithing: Hymn #572: Praise God from Whom All Blessings;                

Prayer Requests                                                                                                        

Today’s Scriptures: 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 and Colossians 1:15-29 

                                               

1 Corinthians 12:4-31 (ESV)

BLCF: gifts-of-the-Holy-Spirit

Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

One Body with Many Members

BLCF: Christ-head-of-church-body

12 For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves[a] or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

14 For the body does not consist of one member but of many. 15 If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? 18 But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. 19 If all were a single member, where would the body be? 20 As it is, there are many parts,[b] yet one body.

21 The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, 23 and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, 24 which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, 25 that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

Footnotes: a. 1 Corinthians 12:13 Or servants; Greek bondservants b. 1 Corinthians 12:20 Or members; also verse 22

Colossians 1:15-29 (ESV) The Preeminence of Christ

BLCF: Christ above all

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by[a] him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation[b] under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

Paul’s Ministry to the Church

BLCF: San_Paolo_St_Paul

24 Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, 25 of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, 26 the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. 27 To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. 28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

Footnotes: a. Colossians 1:16 That is, by means of; or in b. Colossians 1:23 Or to every creature

BLCF: Church_bounty_of_Christ 

Let us pray…

Welcome to Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship’s Praise and Worship Service for the forth Sunday of the month.

The lesson for this morning is worded as a question: Are You Part of the Church or the Body of Christ? On first blush, you may conclude that the question posed is a trick question with two valid answers, but that was not the intention of the question. Many Christians perceive themselves as strictly members of a Church, while others consider themselves connected spiritually to the Holy Spirit of God.

If you were paying attention to this morning’s Responsive Reading, you will recall that the answer to the question is found in the final paragraph of that reading: that we are in fact both part of Christ’s Church and part of the Body of Christ, as we read in the first of today’s Scripture Verses, Colossians 1:15-18 (ESV), which has the sub-heading; The Preeminence of Christ:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church.

Jesus Christ is Lord

The Apostle Paul, while seemingly uses the “Church” and “Body of Believers” interchangeably, there some aspects where the two terms differ. The church is often viewed as a group of people who worship together in a building. Sadly, some people identify with either the building or the denomination.

How often do we reply to the question: “Which church do you belong?” with the answer: Bloor Lansdowne Christian Fellowship, knowing full well that Christ views his Church as the people and not a building. Sometimes, people will answer the question with the Denomination of their church, rather than indicating they are a part of Christ’s Church.

We have in two additional Scriptures where the Apostle speaks of first of the Lord’s calling as described in Galatians 1:11-24 (ESV):

Paul Called by God

BLCF:apostle-paul

11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.[a] 12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. 13 For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. 14 And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. 15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born,[b] and who called me by his grace, 16 was pleased to reveal his Son to[c] me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone;[d] 17 nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

18 Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. 19 But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. 20 (In what I am writing to you, before God, I do not lie!) 21 Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. 22 And I was still unknown in person to the churches of Judea that are in Christ. 23 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” 24 And they glorified God because of me.

Footnotes: a. Galatians 1:11 Greek not according to man b. Galatians 1:15 Greek set me apart from my mother’s womb c. Galatians 1:16 Greek in e. Galatians 1:16 Greek with flesh and blood

We know that our faith conversion, where we acknowledge Jesus as Lord in our lives and with the confession of sins, that our faith’s reward is the baptism by God’s Holy Spirit and the gifts that the Spirit gives us, as we see in Paul’s Epistle to the Church of Rome or, more accurately, to the people of Church in Rome. Romans 12:3-8 (ESV):

Gifts of Grace

BLCF: Gifts-of-Grace

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members,[a] and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads,[b] with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness.

Footnotes: a. Romans 12:4 Greek parts; also verse 5 b. Romans 12:8 Or gives aid

It is important to note that the gifts given to the members of the Church differ and are meant to be used together in a complementary manner. To clarify how Jesus defines his Church, let us look our Wikibits reference from gotquestions.org:

Question: “What is the church?”

BLCF Church Toronto Canada

Answer: Many people today understand the church as a building. This is not a biblical understanding of the church. The word “church” comes from the Greek word ekklesia which is defined as “an assembly” or “called-out ones.” The root meaning of “church” is not that of a building, but of people. It is ironic that when you ask people what church they attend, they usually identify a building. Romans 16:5 says “… greet the church that is in their house.” Paul refers to the church in their house—not a church building, but a body of believers.

Joe Elkerton Disclaimer - BLCF Church

The church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head. Ephesians 1:22-23 says, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

The body of Christ is made up of all believers in Jesus Christ from the day of Pentecost (Acts chapter 2) until Christ’s return.

The body of Christ is comprised of two aspects:

BLCF: the-church-is-a-body

1) The universal church consists of all those who have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink” (1 Corinthians 12:13). This verse says that anyone who believes is part of the body of Christ and has received the Spirit of Christ as evidence. The universal church of God is all those who have received salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.

2) The local church is described in Galatians 1:1-2: “Paul, an apostle … and all the brothers with me, to the churches in Galatia.” Here we see that in the province of Galatia there were many churches—what we call local churches. A Baptist church, Lutheran church, Catholic church, etc., is not the church, as in the universal church—but rather is a local church, a local body of believers. The universal church is comprised of those who belong to Christ and who have trusted Him for salvation. These members of the universal church should seek fellowship and edification in a local church.

In summary, the church is not a building or a denomination. According to the Bible, the church is the body of Christ—all those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ for salvation (John 3:16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Local churches are gatherings of members of the universal church. The local church is where the members of the universal church can fully apply the “body” principles of 1 Corinthians chapter 12: encouraging, teaching, and building one another up in the knowledge and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

http://www.gotquestions.org/what-is-the-church.html

How do we, as members of the body of believers encourage, teach and build one another in the knowledge and race of the Lord?

We may find a perfect example of the body of the church working together at the BLCF Café community Dinner every Wednesday. Just like parts of a body, we see volunteers working together throughout the day cleaning up the church, preparing meals, setting up tables and chairs, the sound system, preparing beverages, cutlery and dishes, instructing and briefing new volunteers – all for some 100 to 150 guests. Then guests are greeted, meals are served, music and a message/testimony shared. After the guests finish their dinner and fellowship, the cleanup begins, and we begin to prepare for next Wednesday’s meal.

BLCF: Community-Dinner

Just like the parts of the body, if volunteers cannot prepare the food. Without beverages or music, the meal is not complete. We cannot serve 150 guests without tables or chairs. Every Wednesday since January 2008, the BLCF Cafe serves the Lord’s Gospel by way of a meal, a message and manner by which we serve.

As our volunteers come from a variety of backgrounds, both Christian and non-Christian, the former have an opportunity to share the Gospel with other volunteers as well as with the guests. Fortunately, the Lord sends His Spirit to all who are involved, which infuses the dinner with the blessings of a unity of purpose.

Let us recapitulate, that the Church of Christ consists of a Body of Believers, whose members are united by faith and by a common Spirit. Each member receives one or more a variety of gifts from the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit differ from one member to another, forcing each of us to work together in unison, as a team. This is part of God’s plan to depend upon one-another and to help each other achieve His goal of growing the Lord’s Church by sharing the Gospel of Christ.

Paul uses the parts of the body to illustrate how each of us serves a different function, with none being of greater importance than the other. Our body’s strength comes from the variety of its parts working together in harmony to achieve a common goal. The Spirit gives the diverse members of the Church Body strength and stamina, by enabling them to work together in harmony. In this way, the members achieve far more together, than is possible to achieve alone. With the Spirit, the whole is indeed greater than the sum of its parts.

BLCF: Body-of-Christ

 

Though Jesus described Peter as the one foundation of His Church, with Christ the important cornerstone, each of us hold an integral member, who combine to make the Church complete. A church that is both built and operates according to Lord’s plan.

Let us pray…

Closing Hymn #200: The Church’s One Foundation

Benediction – (Galatians 1:3-5): Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

BLCF: the Church is